Ndamukong Suh speaks softly, but neither his words nor his deeds do the same.
A second-year player who has quickly earned the reputation as the game’s “dirtiest player,” Suh was more than frank in answering questions from Packers media on Tuesday.
“By all means, do I think our team is at their level, to be able to play against them. I don’t see them as a golden-perfect team. Everybody has flaws in this league, but everybody has great things they do. It’s just a matter of eliminating mistakes on our time and on our team and causing them to make as many mistakes as possible,” the Lions defensive tackle said.
Suh helped lead the Lions to a 7-3 win over the Packers late last season, a game Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers left with a concussion in the second quarter. It was a loss that nearly caused the Packers to miss the playoffs.
In Detroit this Thursday, Rodgers and the Packers will seek to avenge that loss by dealing Suh and the Lions a defeat that would, for all intents and purposes, knock them out of the division title race. The Packers are 10-0; the Lions are 7-3.
So Suh and his teammates know what’s on the line in this NFC North showdown. This is it for a young team seeking a championship identity.
What would a win mean to the Lions?
“I think it would mean that we are on track to be where we want to be, winning games. I know this game would mean a lot to this city and I, personally, would like to end the drought we’ve had,” Suh said.
Rodgers, of course, is the game’s No. 1 quarterback. He’s thrown 31 touchdown passes and he’s on pace to challenge Tom Brady’s all-time, single-season touchdown-passes record, 50.
“Up front, we understand we have a lot on our shoulders, and that’s the way we like it, being able to put a lot of pressure on him and get him off his spot and not allow him to feel comfortable. That’s something Minnesota did,” Suh said.
The Lions are ninth in the league in total defense, fifth in pass-defense, which would seem to match up favorably with the Packers’ strength, which is the league’s No. 3 pass attack. Against the run, the Lions are a lowly 27th, but the Packers are 21st in rushing and wouldn’t seem to be able to take advantage of the weakness in the Lions’ game.
Offensively, the Lions are a mirror image of the Packers; the Lions are eighth in passing and 22nd in rushing. In their most recent win, over Carolina, the Lions opened with two interceptions and a fumble in their first three possessions, and then scored seven touchdowns in their next nine possessions.
Quarterback Matt Stafford is a streaky passer who, when he gets hot, sizzles. The Lions scored 45 straight against Denver and 42 straight against Kansas City.
“We can go on some runs and get hot,” Coach Jim Schwartz said. “The team has confidence. They’ve got some football character when it comes to being resilient.”
The Lions, however, haven’t faced a quarterback the caliber of Rodgers.
“He’s obviously the trigger man on offense, but that’s a very talented offense. It has a lot of playmakers. The thing that makes him so good is that it’s not just about him. He gets the ball to all the playmakers. He’ll throw the ball to five different wide receivers, three different tight ends and three different running backs. He’s also very mobile. Most people don’t realize how good he is scrambling,” Schwartz said of Rodgers.
“I don’t want to compare us to them. They’re world champs and we’re a team trying to establish something. We don’t feel we’ve arrived, yet, but there are some similarities. Both teams have good, young quarterbacks, both teams have talented skill players, good pass-rushers. We aspire to be a team that’ll be good over a long period of time; they look like they will be the same. There are some good rivalries in the NFC North.”
Thursday, the Packers and Lions will square off at Ford Field in what is rapidly becoming the best rivalry in the NFC North.
“I think it’s similar to what our Monday night game was, another great opportunity to play in front of a great fan base and great crowd and with that continue to show the world that we are a team to be reckoned with,” Suh said, softly. Additional coverage - Nov. 22